Thursday, December 9, 2010

Last post from Uis!

Hello! One last brief update from Uis. Tomorrow morning I leave my village! This week was the last week of school (teachers had to stay to do paperwork) and has been full of goodbyes for me.
For those of you who don’t know, from here I’m going to Mozambique for a week! I’m not sure what the internet situation will be like, so please don’t get too upset if I don’t respond to emails right away ☺
Sorry I’m not full of insightful reflection or funny anecdotes, but things have really just been winding down around here. To close this chapter however, I would like to list the contents of a going away gift given to me by a grade 6 learner named Velonika:
4 advertisements torn out from magazines
2 bags of chips
1 page from an ovambo book with the first sentence translated
30 namibian cents
the front and back cover of a notebook.

Clearly wonderful, because these are things valued by an 11 year old, and I should mention that the box was very elaborately decorated.

So that’s all for now! I may be able to put something up from Mozambique, but if not have a good couple of weeks!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A week of events!

As we near the end of the year and the end of the term, our school has started to host all of their closing events. This started Thursday night with the Christmas pageant/ pre-primary graduation and awards ceremony. While most of the evening was spent with the pre-primary teacher yelling at everyone to be quiet (now I know where my kids get it—the parents couldn’t shut up) there was a very cute mini-skit of the birth of Jesus put on by grade 4. There was also an awards ceremony for the top performers in the pre-primary class and let me tell you, it gets the award for cutest ceremony ever. There was a lot of chaos and it’s a good thing it was held in a church because it is a miracle no one’s hair got lit on fire (who give 4 year olds candles?!) Then there was a costume change and all of the kids appeared in the smallest caps and gowns I have ever seen.
My job for the night was to take pictures in case the parents wanted some but there were about three other people with cameras/camera phones and after about 30 minutes of having people step right in front of me as I was shooting it or getting so close to the kids that they blocked out everyone else’s picture, it was a relief to hand my camera over to one of my high school friends who was not afraid to push and shove for a picture. It’s interesting how since widespread access to cameras is a relatively new phenomenon, no one knows the “camera etiquette” that we all take for granted.

Then last night (Friday) was another event- the miss brandberg/ miss pre-primary pageant. The event was… painful, but very much a cultural experience since beauty contests are so popular here. The event was scheduled to start at 5, but I showed up to discover it had been rescheduled for an hour and a half later (somehow everyone in town knew except me, typical!). I re-appeared at 6:30 but could have waited since it didn’t actually begin until 8. Then over a lot of shouting and noise from the crowd, the contestants paraded. It was almost a relief that my camera battery was dead from the night before so I didn’t have to explain “in my culture we don’t take pictures of strange children in their bathing suits…”. There was a swimwear round, traditional clothing, and evening wear. It was, of course, adorable to see the little ones waltz with all of the attitude they could muster and the older contestants were my learners who walked like pros, even if the crowd was too loud for you to hear their mini-speeches. It was a long, but interesting evening.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Ok official apology: I’m sorry I have been so bad about updating. Things here have become routine and it’s difficult to find things to write about. That said, here’s a little something for those of you who still bother to check the blog!

Things we are doing in my classes:
BIS: I am making newspapers with all of my classes. They have to make advertisements, comics, sports news stories, local news stories, and a profile of a person. Theoretically, these are all things we have done/written in class over the past three months but that’s only true for a few learners… so it’s fun! They are getting into it and actually working hard. Hopefully I will get some pictures when they are done, and this project should take us through until the last class of the semester!

RME: Progressing through the world religions! All of them are on Hinduism (grade 5 finishing up, 7 in the middle and grade 6 just starting). They don’t really get the idea of polytheism, but enjoy the pictures of the different gods and the stories about them.

Natural science: on our last chapter, the kids just made “environment collages” about what environment means and how it can be protected.

Math: telling time. It’s a bit more fun, because we can play with clocks but still a challenge. We have three full chapters and less than 3 weeks before their final. I’m not sure we’re going to make it through everything but if they leave the semester being able to read a clock, add decimals, and convert measurements (meters to cm) I will be happy.

Art: Art has been super fun lately. We just finished making masks and grade 7 is having a Halloween party on Thursday when they all have to wear them. They got really into the mask-making project and although there are a lot of kitties, they are creative. The last project we’re doing is making friendship bracelets, which they love. It is the first project all year where even the trouble making boys sit down and work throughout the whole class. It’s a miracle. I even have esau making them after school in the library just to keep him from turning up his obnoxious meter ☺

So that’s how thins are going at school! I have my end of service conference this weekend, which is crazy. I remember talking about this part of the year at orientation and it’s baffling that we’re already there, but I guess time flies!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Quck Update

Hello! Sorry I have been so bad about posting lately, it just feels like there's nothing all that new happening and I'm not far enough removed to want to reflect just yet, so I'm slacking! Last weekend, though, Kristen and Jena came to visit! They arrived friday just after i finished having my hair plaited (pictures as soon as I can, I promise!) and we spent the evening cooking and catching up. Saturday we had a picnic by the reservoir, wore matching tie-dyed dresses (matching is very cool here...) and went to dinner in town. As always we had fun and it was so nice to see them and still be at home :)
This week was relatively uneventful, although two of the teachers at my school just started having detention after school, which we can all send misbehavers to. It has been really nice, and the kids hate it so it's a good punishment, although it has sparked a few arguments about being unjustly punished. But I think I can hadle that.
I hope something exciting happens so i can write about it, but if not, have a great week! And I will have to write after our trip to the central north next weekend.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I think the way that people in Namibia view ideal beauty is really interesting. Obviously this varies a bit from person to person, but just as there are certain very American views on this subject (don’t even get me started, reminds me of waay too many classes I have taken…) an ideal exists in Namibia too. Here’s a breakdown of what I can gather.

Hair: Hair should be long and straight. Women here go through a lot to get this look. Most common is plaiting (braiding), but wigs (worn over a tight braid to hide natural hair) that are made out of straight hair and relaxer/ straighteners are also common. Kids are amazed at my hair, not just because it’s long and different from theirs, but because they cannot believe that I don’t have to use multitudes of products to get it to be straight.
Also hairy bodies are totally normal and considered beautiful. My kids cannot believe I “cut” the hairs on my legs and they think it’s totally weird. I also had someone tell me they loved my armpit hair (yes that’s a glimpse into personal hygiene here ;) ) which I can certainly imagine is not a compliment I’m going to hear back home.

Skin: Generally people think that lighter skin corresponds to more beauty. I have seen women put powders and chemicals on their faces to lighten their skin and often hear my kids put themselves down saying their skin is ugly. It’s upsetting to hear and I’m not sure if it is a remnant of colonialism or even apartheid, but this is probably the most talked about part.

Size: Ideas about size are really interesting. Namibia has already been bombarded with western ideals of beauty so people already think that pop stars and actresses should be stick thin with a large chest. But on the day to day, things are different. I am constantly told that I am beautiful because I’m fat (ha I still have not gotten used to taking it as a compliment) and “shaped like a woman”. I had one learner tell me “Miss you have such a beautiful body. You look like you’ve already had two children.” A. Ouch. B. This is a much healthier way to idealize women’s bodies, and I really do appreciate how ingrained into people it is.

Teeth: Straight, white teeth are an important part of beauty only in the upper classes. In the lower class it makes no difference, they can be discolored, missing, or pointing in interesting directions and it doesn’t seem to matter. Across all levels of society, however, gold teeth are in, especially third from the front on either top or bottom. People even put little gold stickers (ok... not actually stickers, they last longer) on their front teeth. I have seen stars, moons, dolphins, and circles. It’s amazing how common this is. Mostly when I think of teeth in Namibia, though, I can’t help but picture the pre-primary kids out brushing their teeth by the fence every day after break. As a friend of mine would say, it’s so cute it causes pain ☺

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quick Update

Hello! I just wanted to let everyone know that last week the bookshelf was delivered!! It is better than I could have expected and exactly what we need. Thanks again to everyone who made this possible!! I spent the weekend re-organizing the library and this week I have been painting the shelves (and a dot on the books!) to color-code the non-fiction section. I realized if this library is going to be usable and not fall into total disorganization, I need to find a system that is as basic as possible and I'm hoping this is it. Hopefully I will post some pictures when it's finished.

Other than that not too much exciting is going on around here. Classes have been going alright (some good, some not so much, but that's to be expected) and mostly I'm looking forward to the weekend when the other Erongo girls are going to come visit Uis!

I plan to do a topical post later tonight but in case the internet dies or I get distracted, I just wanted to let everyone know what is going on!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

home again home again

Hello from back in Uis! The end of the trip was pretty wonderful, we stayed an extra day in Botswana camping at a beautiful lodge right on the river. This means we got to enjoy the pool and comforts of a $300/night room for abot $10 :) Yay! We mostly just lounged around but took a great boat tour up the river into Chobe national park and saw hundreds of eliphants, some hippos, crocs, and water buffalo.
Then we worked our way up to the Zimbabwe side of victoria falls where we spent an afternoon walking along the national park along the falls just in awe of the spectacular views. We went during the dry season but still got a fair dusting of mist. The next day we went over to the Zambia side and got to visit livingstone island, which is right in the middle of the falls. From there we crossed (holding hands balancing on rocks and swimming at parts- I can hear my mother pancking from here) to devil's pool where you could jump from a rock into a pool right at the edge of the falls. Terrifying but incredible.
After that it was mostly a marathon drive back to Rundu (after we met up with another vol and his family for a night out in livingstone) and then another long drive to windhoek. I got back to Uis in time for the first day of classes, and am in a much better place mentally and emotionally than at the end of the last term (not that that's saying much...). Classes today were basically nonexistant... after making all the reports for grade 5 I made the 5 learners in grade six who showed up write goals for the term and play with multiplication flash cards. Despite everything, it's good to be home!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Greetings From Botswana!

Jambo! (ok that's swahili, but I don't know how to say hello in tswana...) Right now we are in the little town of Kasane, in the middle of Chobe national park in northern Botswana. Our campsite is right on the river, and the views are spectacular. Our trip so far has been wonderful and it is definitely helped by Adam, a friend from the states who is here visiting Ari. He helps not because he is particularly great (he is a nice guy though) but rather because he is in constant amazement of stuff here that we forget is not... normal. We are constantly laughing at the little troops of kids hanging out on the side of the road, waving or playing with surprising toys (rocks, cans, wire cars...) and he reminded us that a troop of three year olds without adult supervision is not somthing you see every day in the states. Apparently we also all think it's standard for herds of goats and cows (sometimes baboons or warthogs) to just wander across the road and make you wait for them, he finds this hilarious.
We also got really lucky with some very cool animal sightings in Etosha (the national park in Namibia). We pulled up next to a watering hole to see a bunch of zebra and springbok not moving but warily eyeing a lion who was laying down and relaxing in the sun. Another lion came sauntering over and it was almost like all the animals were holding their breath, even the 6 giraffes hanging around. But then everything was disrupted by the true kings of the jungle when a herd of elephants came over to drink and play in the water and all the other animals had to scramble to get out of the way. Amazing.
After Etosha we spent one night in Ari's village and then headed to Ngepi camp in the eastern part of Namibia where we camped about three feet from the river and swam in a cage in the river (the cage is so the hippos and crocs don't eat us) while we listened to hippos grunting at eachother across the river.
Just thought I would let you know that this vacation is as entertaining and relaxing as i need it to be! Hope things are going well back in the states!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A not so happy update...

Sorry for slacking so much on the whole blog thing, but the internet in Uis has been sporadic (at best) and the past two weeks have been... well... awful. Sorry that so many of my posts are "downers" lately but here's what happened:
Two weeks ago, my colleague Werner Aichab, teacher for longer than i have been alive and an important part of my school community suffered a stroke. After a week in the hospital, he passed away last saturday. The school is currently in mourning.
On top of that one of the other upper primary teachers suffered a medical emergency and has been in the hospital or recovering at home for two weeks as well.
The only other teachers left for upper primary are the principal (who has been at a workshop for over a week) and Jane Doe, who was obviously the target of a lot of harassment and near-violence after these two events.
THis means that in addition to the chaos caused by exams, mourning, and demonstrations against one of our teachers, i have been almost single handedly responsible for grades 5 and 6 for over a week. Needless to say, i am a bit exhausted and sooo thankful that our holiday starts wednesday. Hopefully, the next post i have will be about adventures on the way to Zim and Zam (bew and bia)! Hope things back home are a little more stable!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Exams round II

Exams have started up again which means more craziness! This is how things started:
I came in Monday (had heard from another teacher in our cluster that exams were supposed to start Monday) and asked my principal if she had received our exam schedule (other vols got theirs about 3 weeks ago…). She replies, “I left a stack of schedules on the table in the staff room Friday afternoon, didn’t you get one?” No…. if you don’t tell me they are there, why would I check? And unfortunately Friday I was busy since all the other upper primary teachers left so I had to supervise three grades who were already out of control because it’s a Friday afternoon…
You get the point.
Fortunately, they didn’t start Monday but rather today, Tuesday. Unfortunately by 8:00, which is when learners all over the country are supposed to begin their exams, we still hadn’t received the question papers for the tests that the learners were supposed to take today. The principal, who had said during the pre-school staff meeting that she would call to find out where they were, decided they just wouldn’t take them today. Then when the exams were faxed over an hour later, our learners finally started at 10:00. Oh boy.
I’m sure the coming weeks will be full of interesting situations and plenty of miscommunications, but the good news is that exams mean it’s almost time for vacation—yay!

Also, I put down a deposit on the new bookshelf last week (hooray!!!) only to find out that the price of wood has gone up. I’m still getting it fairly cheap from a local guy, but if you can/are willing to, please please please help out! I would really appreciate it!!! And if you can't help, perhaps you want to ask friends/family who might be more willing? And thank you again to those who have already donated, you got us most of the way there already!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A global issue on my back porch

I have been debating for several weeks about whether or not to write about this topic because it is such a sensitive one, but given that none of you know the individuals involved, I think it should be ok.
I have mentioned before that HIV/AIDS is a huge problem in Namibia. 20% of people are infected. As a result, there are a lot of programs from the government and independent organizations geared towards raising awareness and education. My kids are bombarded with information about the disease. They have to listen to plays, hear songs, read magazines, see posters, watch shows, and see commercials about it every day. Even every single school subject’s syllabus contains ways that HIV can be worked into the class materials. As a result, they know a lot. Kids who can barely speak English know the ABCs of prevention (abstain, be faithful, condomize) and are brought up to talk openly about the disease. I mentioned before that there is a small gap between knowledge and ability to apply the knowledge (my 6th graders knew all about condoms but didn’t know the technicalities of how sex actually works…) but that’s probably ok given how young they are, and they still understand the social situations involved.
I find it very interesting that some of the topics that are continually addressed are not necessarily things that would be focused on back in the states. I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but cheating is rampant (many men have girlfriends in several different towns who know about each other and are fine with it) so obviously the idea of being faithful is addressed a lot and is not a ‘relationship assumption’ that people here would make. Another interesting difference is the focus on sugar daddies. This is mostly (I feel) almost a joke back home, but here, where so many people are impoverished, it is a reality. This borderline prostitution involves men (usually older men) buying clothes, food, electronics or just giving money to young girls for sex.
Unfortunately, I got a chance to see how all of these are still a continuing reality recently when it was discovered that a man in my community (someone I know, he is generally seen as a pretty upstanding citizen- doesn’t drink, has a family and is in a serious relationship) was having a sugar daddy relationship with a learner. They were found out when she came home with a brand new cell phone and her suspicious parents followed her when she went to meet him. The man has known that he is HIV positive for five years. He and the young girl have been having unprotected sex for almost two years. She is one of my learners, in fact one of the ones that I am closest to (not one that I have blogged about). She is 12 years old.
The family is pressing charges, although there are rumors that things will be ‘sorted out’ through the traditional authorities instead of through the police. The man was fired from his job. She is going to a nearby town to be tested for HIV and to take a pregnancy test. She continues to visit me fairly often but dropped out of school last week.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sundooooowwwwner Cup!

This weekend was the sundowner cup, the biggest event to hit Uis each year. 32 soccer teams came from all over the country, there was a netball tournament and a boxing competition, not to mention a show (singing and dancing) and spectators pouring in from all over damaraland. Jen and I went out with her host mom on Friday night to see what things look like and to keep the teachers from my school who were selling things company and it was absolutely crazy. There were hundreds of people everywhere. The sundowner (one of the two clubs/bars in the location) was absolutely packed and all outside it there were fires and grills and cars so that it almost looked like a late night tailgating party with people selling things. After socializing (and dancing with an old woman who decided she liked me…) we went home relatively early given that the club was open till 6 am.
The next day all four soccer fields in town were used and there were thousands of people watching and walking around, selling things and talking. It was fun (if not a bit overwhelming) and we had a lot of fun spending time with learners and greeting all the people we know. Sunday was more of the same, culminating in a final soccer game in the early evening. It was so bizarre to see the number of people in Uis triple overnight and the streets constantly full!
Sadly it was also Jen’s last weekend in Uis so we made it a full and exhausting one. Today we had to say goodbye and I’m back to being the only American (and the only white girl) in Uis. But that just means I have to do lots of fun things to make up for it! I’ll keep you posted on my adventures!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Two quick things:

1. The pre-primary and first grade learners have just started figuring out that it’s ok to hug me. Adorable. Today one of my little friends from grade 1 ran from the other side of the building to give me a hug and knocked the wind out of me and two pre-prim. girls dangled from my arms as I walked back to class. They are too funny!
2. Today we said goodbye to a principal who has been visiting our school for two weeks to help us get through the adjustment period after bringing ‘Jane Doe’ back. We had a little mini party in the staff room (celebrated with meat, as no Namibian party would be complete without it…) and I had to take pictures of each member of the staff with this man. Then the kids started moving desks and chairs in preparation for the sundowner cup (people are renting out the classrooms to sleep in) even though we still had three periods left. So school ended two hours early today (something that would have been so frustrating to me at the beginning of the year, given that I had all my lessons planned, but alas Namibia has been changing me ;) ). I hung out and took some pictures of kids clowning around for a bit but hooray for a short Friday!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Status quo?

Last Wednesday, "Jane Doe" came back to school. The first day, a lot of the kids were pulled out of the school, but the next day most classes had at least 2/3 of their learners, so we all let our hopes get up that the parents had just accepted the situation. Unfortunately, the father of one of the learners who was the most... involved in the possessions is a Counselor (government position) for the town and called a meeting encouraging parents to keep their kids out of school. So today I had 7 grade 6 learners and there were 9 in grade 7. There is a parents meeting again tonight and each parent received a letter telling them that if their kids are absent for three more consecutive days from school that the director of the ministry of education will be dealing with the responsible parents directly (who knows what 'dealing with' means).
Anyway, the point is that the saga continues. My classes grow and shrink from day-to-day and I often have two or three girls sitting in the back of my class who are avoiding the teacher in question's classes. Fortunately, I am back to teaching my normal number of classes and no longer have to 'baby sit' classes during my free period, so hopefully school will feel like less of a drag soon.
Nothing else too exciting is going on currently, but this upcoming weekend is the Sundowner Cup in Uis, and apparently soccer teams are coming from all over the country to compete. It sounds like the town will be swarmed with people and there will be things happening all weekend, so I'm excited! Hope you're looking forward to hearing about that excitement!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Still want to help?

Hi again! I’m back to blogging after a wonderful and relaxing weekend in Tsumeb with some of the other volunteers ☺
Many of you have been writing and asking what you can send or if you can help out the school at all and I finally have a good answer for you! As you know, I have done by best to whip the library into shape, but there is still one big problem: the big bookshelf (where I have non-fiction sitting) has some very messed up shelves. Specifically they only go back about 6 inches, so there is a big space that the books constantly fall down. It’s a very ridiculous design, and I have no idea why someone would build a bookshelf like that. I have, therefore, contracted my new friend who is a carpenter to make a custom built, huge bookshelf to replace it. The only problem is that it will cost between 1000 and 1400 Namibian dollars ($133 to 187 US) plus the cost of paint, since I plan to paint it in a color-coded fashion to make the smooth running of the library more sustainable. So if you think you would like to help out and contribute a bit to pay for it, I would really, really appreciate it!
If you think you want to, please mail the donations to my parents (I won’t post the address on the world wide web but if you don’t have it send me an email and I will happily provide it) as soon as you can, and they will deposit it so that I can take it out here and make the exciting new purchase! Let me know if you have any questions, and many thanks if you even consider it!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hello again!

Hello!!! I finally have my computer back, sorry for slacking so much on the blog while I waited for repairs, and thanks to those of you who continued to check for updates! It has been a while so I will try to just do a quick catch up on the recent goings on around here!
Witch update
The regional director, education inspector, and several other people with intimidating titles came to the school this week and met with management, teachers, parents and learners to announce that no proof of witchcraft was found so the teacher in question will be reinstated. Obviously many parents are outraged and will probably be taking their kids out of school but from the government’s position, there’s not much they can do.
4th of July
For the fourth of July I went with Kristen, Jena, Wes and Kyle to visit Ari in the far far northeast. It was a chance to get to see yet another culture within Namibia and was a lot of fun. He lives right next to a beautiful river that forms the border with Angola in the only cement house for kilometers (also the only one with running water and electricity, so people were always coming and going). We cooked American foods, donned ridiculous party hats and masks, blew mini voovoozelias, and had a bonfire by the river. It was a pretty excellent weekend.
School and social
School has started to be quite a chore, to put it mildly. A combination of being short one teacher (so the kids are sitting un-taught for at least two periods each day, which breeds loneliness), demons interrupting class, and all sorts of goings on that have disrupted regular routines, the learner’s behavior has deteriorated. I put up with kids misbehaving, whining, talking, fighting, and blatantly refusing to do work almost every class. It doesn’t matter if I’m enthusiastic and far too excited about something like decimals or yelling at the top of my lungs. Good behavior rewards have been tried and worked for the first couple of days but have stopped having much influence (I actually had a class say “miss we were too naughty, don’t give anyone stars”- glad they know it!). I am really, really hoping that the other teacher returning will restore some sort of balance, but we will see.
Fortunately, life outside of school has started to be really great. Somehow, I actually have friends now (suddenly!) and between cooking with my “crew” of older white friends, playing games with my learners, exploring with the summer volunteers, or just hanging out and chatting with my neighbor and his friends, I have started to be busy. As much as I missed all of you, I think not having a computer helped to force me out into the real world! This past weekend included watching burn notice with Jen and her host brother and his friends, hiking to the reservoir, watching a religious dance performance, a braai (barbeque) for the world cup finals, tea at 10 PM with learners and friends, church, and soccer, just to give you an idea ☺
For some unknown reason, Jen and I have taken up baking, which is a bizarre hobby to acquire in Namibia. We have semi-successfully (tasted ok, even if it wasn’t the original plan) made rice crispies treats, cookies, and cheesecake.
Funny snippet from my life: Monday included a dance party on my back porch with some learners, a little boy (6 or 7 but could dance like a maniac) and my neighbor. I taught them line dances and how to bachata and they tried to tell me I could dance to hip hop but laughed at me nonetheless. After walking one girl home she turned to me and said “miss, I wish every day could be this fun!’ Adorable.

Anyway this is quite long enough, but look forward to (hopefully!) more regular updates now, and keep the questions/comments coming!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Witch Hunt Update

A little update on what has been going on and some answers to questions about the whole ordeal!
The kids are back in school and the teacher who has been accused is on leave for an undetermined amount of time while a group from the ministry of education investigates the whole thing. The investigation involves a lot of interviews and meeting with everyone involved one-on-one. While the teacher is gone, we have divided up her classes (there will be no replacement teacher...) so I am now also teaching grade 7 math. A bit of a disaster this week as i tried to jump in on what they had been doing, but it's getting better now that I'm on the same page as the learners.
So in answer to some of your questions about the whole thing:
I honestly have no idea if what the kids were doing was a big act or not. I believe that they honestly believe what was happening to them was true, and I think that if they convinced themselves of it enough that it is probably real for them. That being said, the kids involved were some of the more dramatic learners, and while not kids I would necessarily expect this sort of thing from (Mclean was involved, for example) I can see them getting swept up in the excitement.
I am not afraid for my safety. While it's true that I am the only other non-Damara at the school, my relationship as an american is very different from the inter-ethnic relationships here. I do not think this sort of thing could be turned on me either, since no one would be able to explain where i learned African witchcraft.
This sort of thing has happened before, not at my school, but up north. It has not happened for several years however, and is by no means a common occurrence. We have been all over the Namibian news (TV, paper, radio) for weeks now.
I will let you know what the investigative team decides!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ch ch ch ch changes!

In addition to the witch hunt madness currently taking over Uis, there have been two other big changes in community life. The first is the start of the world cup. Soccer fever is rampant here, and everyone is soooo excited to have the world cup so close. Schools have been having jersey days, and a lot of conversation is about the games going on right now. It's really fun to have everyone so excited!
The other big change is the arrival of the World Teach summer volunteer in Uis. Her name is Jen and she will be around for two months. It's nice to have someone new to talk to and i feel like an expert when i get to answer questions about life and logistics here. It's a little annoying, though, that everyone keeps saying "now you have a friend!" which I understand is them expressing excitement but my reply of "I had friends before too!" just gets met with laughs (or in one case "no you didn't!"... great, thanks :) )Nonetheless, it is fun to have another white person in the location and another native english speaker too!
The last change is that my computer is temporarily out of commission. I just want to give you a heads up that blog posts may be more sporradic and it could take me a bit longer than usual to respond to emails. thankfully Jen has access to the computer lab at her school, so I should be able to use that (once the internet gets fixed) but I just wanted to give you a heads up!

The Witch Hunt

Last Friday, I walked out of the library at about 9 in the morning to go teach class and I could hear screaming. i went to the main courtyard and was surprised to see kids crying, screaming, writhing on the ground, and behaving erratically. There were also about 200 adults from town assisting the kids and herding most of them away from the courtyard over towards the soccer field. My first thought was that this was some sort of play, since everything was so dramatic. But i asked around and was told that demons had been in one of the classrooms and had attacked/infected several of the learners. The town had come out to pray over them, including 5 or so pastors who were performing exorcisms. I got to watch and take pictures for FOUR HOURs as the possessions and exorcisms continued, with one learner ending up being tied hand to feet because she was attacking a pastor. another learner clung desperately to my leg and clawed at my pants while mothers yelling "out! Out in the name of Jesus!" dragged her from the staffroom. needless to say, it was a very bizarre day.
The problems continued however, because my colleague (Jane Doe) was accused of being responsible for the whole thing. She had stayed home friday to get some paperwork done, and while she was absent some "possessed" learners (and, i think, some parents too) completely destroyed her classroom while looking for snakes.
This whole week, no learners have come to school. They say they are afraid, but mostly it is the parents protesting, saying the kids will not come back until the teacher is sent away from the school. There have been constant meetings of the school board, visits from the ministry inspector, parents meetings, a trial by the traditional leaders (led by the chief, who i have a newfound respect for since he has been so level-headed in the midst of hysteria). Yesterday the national news came to film a protest staged by the parents around the school.
The whole thing has been very interesting and frustrating. I'm trying not to get too involved, because this is something I don't feel i can address with the required cultural sensitivity. I will let you know what happens as further developments arise!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Esau… oh Esau. I honestly cannot believe I have not written about him yet. My friends here all know Esau’s name (and Mclean’s) because about 90% of the stories I have are about the two of them. Esau can (and frequently does) single-handedly make or break my day. It’s actually a joke with the rest of the 6th grade class because he so dominates the classroom atmosphere.
Esau is in his seat about 10% of the time. The other 90% is spent either wandering around, standing right next to me, sitting next to whichever girl he is currently ‘in love with’ (read- currently tormenting), sitting next to someone he is trying to copy off of, or just sitting next to someone he can distract. He is also constantly talking. Constantly.
Despite this, however, he can still be great to have in class. He is actually quite quick and bright, he always tries to give an answer, and I can count on him to volunteer for anything from writing something on the board to letting me push him (gently, of course) as a demonstration of a contact force. He can be very entertaining and can be a good student, at least on the days when he hasn’t decided to make my life a living hell.
Some days, Esau decides to pick a fight. “Now Tina,” you say, “you are much to intelligent to get into a petty fight with an 11-year-old.” And I used to think that you were right. But when you have a learner accuse you of helping another learner cheat on a test, or of giving him bad marks because you are attacking him personally… it’s a little more difficult to not get sucked in. And despite years of trialing and debate practice, logic doesn’t really work with him. It’s only so disruptive because he refuses to stop arguing, pouting, and putting up a fuss, and kicking him out of the classroom results in him standing at the windows yelling at me. Even on days he doesn’t pick fights, sometimes his classroom antics have everyone so distracted that class cannot continue.
This behavior might sound to you like something to be dealt with by, oh I don’t know, school administration or his parents. But you have to realize that while the situation may be worse with me because I’m an easy target (I get offended by accusations of dishonesty and don’t know the system…) he poses the same problems to his other teachers (including the principal) who have no idea what to do with him. He also lives with his ANCIENT grandmother, who very clearly (as observed from the numerous times she has been called to school) cannot do anything about how he is acting.
On days when I can stay in a good mood and remember to treat Esau as a co-conspirator, he is one of my favorite students. On a day when I am already frustrated, Esau is a master at finding and pushing my buttons. Either way, he is a dominating force in my days at school and those of everyone else he meets.

love it, hate it

1. Seeing “aha” moments in class. I love when a kid is staring at me blankly and then goes “oh! Miss this is so easy” and starts working furiously on a problem. Awesome.
2. Sitting in the library during an off period with Gideon and Dlameni who have wandered in since their teacher is absent today. I can’t keep from giggling as they ask question after question about the world cup, dinosaur sex, or gangsters in the United States.
3. Having a fourth grade boy I kind of know tell me I look beautiful as I go to class, despite the fact that I haven’t showered in two days because it’s so cold, my clothes are faded from hand washing, and I’m totally breaking out.
4. Sitting on my back porch with a cup of tea and a good book while the sun goes down, listening to the sounds of a soccer game from the field.

1. Blank stares as I cover the topic that inspired so many “aha” moments in class yesterday and realizing I have to talk about it again. For the 6th day in a row.
2. Having learners actually laugh at my visible frustration when they will not be quiet.
3. Having first graders bang on the door and spy through the holes in the paint on the windows to watch me eat an apple during break. It stopped being cute four months ago.
4. Walking into the staff room during break where everyone is talking in khoekhoe., having them tease me about how I should be able to speak it by now, and then go back to speaking khoekhoe. This is only so frustrating because it is what happens about 97% of the time, the other 3% is official meetings or responding to a direct question that I have asked.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


There has been an interesting cultural issue in my school lately so I thought I would try to share what I know.
Two weekends ago, I was talking with learners who first told me about a visit from a pastor at which four girls were apparently possessed. They were called up on stage, started behaving strangely, ranted, raved, spoke in tongues, and one attacked the pastor. When the pastor asked who sent them, one of the girls said that “Jane Doe had sent her to destroy his powers” (except Jane Doe is the name of my colleague, a fellow teacher at the school). You can imagine I was shocked, but given that these were kids, I decided to wait to see if anyone else said anything.
The following Monday, Jane Doe came up to me and asked to talk. She was incredibly upset and we spent an hour and a half after school with her telling me everything. Apparently, the version I had heard was 100% accurate. And parents were upset. This teacher had come to school and found salt along her windowsills and at the base of the door to her classroom (a supposed remedy against witch craft).
She also informed me of the struggle that she has had working at this school because of ethnic discrimination. She is the only non-damara (besides me) at the school. Several other teachers have been run off by certain members of the staff. Apparently the girl who said her name at the service was the daughter of one of the women who has been most difficult to her, and whether the mother put her up to it is still to be seen.

How to react to this is difficult. It’s not a situation I feel like I can be very culturally sensitive about (“this is ridiculous!” might escape) so I am trying to just be supportive and see what happens. Fortunately, the kids have been good about it. She spoke to two of the girls involved, and they claim to have been in a trance-like state (“everything was green where I was”) and have no memory of the incident. The kids know that she is not responsible, however, and have written letters of support and cards telling her how much they like her after seeing how upset she was. The teacher has gone to the town head man as well as her pastor, who are both going to try to address the problem.

Not a problem we would have to deal with at a school in the states! I will let you know what happens!


Today after school we started a week long after school conference about identifying and helping at risk and vulnerable children. Today included a sharing of some statistics I thought you might find interesting about Namibia:

-1/3 of grade 1 learners reach grade 12
-By 2020, there will be 250,000 orphans under the age of 15 in Namibia (consider also that the population is just over 2 million)
-35% of Namibians live on less that $1 per day (USD)
-50% of kids do not have basic material needs met (food, clothing, shelter)
-33% of rape victims (or victims of attempted rape) are under 18. 12% are under ten. (there is a belief that if you have sex with a virgin it cures HIV. Another variation is that sex with a baby will cure it)
-60 to 70% of children have been exposed to alcohol or drug abuse in their towns.
-20% of the population is HIV positive.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A run in Uis.

I’m tired. Even without having study after school today, three periods straight with the same grade (6th grade science, math, and religion) has left me exhausted, even after an afternoon siesta. Nonetheless, I’m determined to get back into shape, so I throw on my sneakers and head out the door for a run.
On the weekends I can go to the second soccer field in the mornings and run on the track that’s around it, but week days the field is occupied by a men’s soccer team (not my preferred spectators…) so I follow my usual route: a donkey cart path to the settlement. The ground is totally uneven, and the road is made of stones about the size of my fist, so I have to stare straight down to make sure I don’t sprain an ankle (and look for snakes, since I’m paranoid). As I weave my way through the now brown hills, I hear voices:
“Miss! Miss!” High pitched and squeaky from some very little kids at my school.
“Tiiina!” From a guy who sells gemstones outside the grocery store in town.
“Hey! You! Hey!” From the woman sitting outside her house, which is made of corrugated metal.

I give each of them a wave, and try to keep going.
I stop when I reach the goat path, which is currently occupied by about 75 goats being hearded back from a day grazing on the hills to a large fenced in area in the middle of the settlement (the settlement is about 10 minutes away from where I live and is where all the tin houses are). I sit and watch them as they comically hobble down, bleating and complaining, sounding frighteningly like my classes on the day of a quiz. It’s distracting, and relaxing to watch them parade by, but I can’t forget that here it’s winter and the shortest day of the year is approaching, so even though it’s 5:00, I only have about 20 minutes before the sun disappears behind Brandberg mountain. I turn to head home.
On the way back, I run into Matias, one of my grade 7 learners. He walks with me for a bit:
“Miss! Are you exercising?”
“Ha, I’m trying! But I’m tired today. Where are you going?”
“To watch the TV!”
“But shades of sin isn’t on for two more hours! Where will you watch it?”
“I know, but I can play the soccer first. I am going to my father’s house.”
“Ah ok. So do you think I can get to my house without walking?”
“Yes miss! Go!”
And spurred on by the knowledge that he’s watching, I make it home, thinking that a cold shower isn’t sounding quite so bad.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The rest of the holiday

So I will try to catch you all up on what has been going on for the past two weeks (and supplement the guest blog post that I hope you all enjoyed ☺). I apologize if this comes out as a list of “we did this, then this, then this” I will do my best to avoid that but it might be tricky to fit it all in!
The last few days in Cape Town continued to be incredible. We lucked out and had beautiful weather on our last day, which was when we drove down the Cape of Good Hope. We got to see African penguins (too funny!) and miles and miles of gorgeous coastline. We hiked to the lighthouse at the tip of cape point, and it was absolutely spectacular. We ended the trip with one last ridiculous night out, full of far too much dancing and after about an hour of sleep, we got back on the bus for another long but uneventful trip back to Windhoek.
I met my parents in Windhoek (yay!!!) and after a night in there we headed to a cat reserve. We did cheetah and leopard tracking, which was absolutely amazing (and which my dad already mentioned… kind of) and we had these spectacular rooms with windows that looked out across a plain full of animals.
After two days we went up to Etosha, Namibia’s biggest national park, and saw tons of animals, as you might have gathered. I will let the guest blog do the talking there.
My parents got to come see my house in Uis and we spent a couple days hanging out (they wanted to fix everything in my house) and hiking to see the cave paintings nearby. It was fun to get to show them my school and my town, as well as see a side of Namibia that they might not have gotten to if we had just kept hopping from gorgeous lodge to gorgeous lodge. We also spent a couple of days in Swakopmund, which was fun since I have obviously told them lots and lots about it! On the way out of Swakop, we did a boat tour which was pretty entertaining. My mom and I had a full-grown male seal sit on our laps and we got to see dolphins playing in the water. Then we headed south and visited a national park where we got to see the red dunes that you will see lots of pictures of if you find any book about Namibia. We ran into some of my friends in both Swakop and Soussesvlei and my parents got a kick out of meeting them.
We headed back up to Windhoek where I bade goodbye to my parents and said hello to my entire group who had re-convened for mid-service. This whole past weekend I have been having sessions with the group and getting ready to go back to teaching. We also got to have some fun-- we had a big braai with live music and lots of friends on Saturday night, which was definitely the highlight of the weekend.
I got back to Uis last night, sad after many goodbyes and wishing I was more ready to start teaching. Today I get to just get ready for classes and settle back in to my routine, which is a bit different now that I have a new roommate (I promise to tell you more about her as I learn more, for now her name is either Megan or Maggie, she is from Swakopmund, likes singing and seems incredibly nice). I hope everyone enjoyed the month of May as much as I did!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Guest Blog (Tina's Dad)

Greetings from the Namib, Namibia. Most of Namibia is in the Khalari, but the Namib Desert runs along the coast, from 40-80 km inland. We are there, in Swakopmund, taking a tour-the-town and hang out day.
Perhaps you had my misconception: Christina actually lives in Uis, despite not living in the town. This is because “town” refers to about a fourth of Uis’ population, with straight grid streets, a supermarket, restaurants, gas station and tourist facilities. It is mostly white, but some black Africans, too. The other part of Uis is the “location”, which is >99,9% black (guess who) and separated from the “town” by a brick plant and abandoned tin mine, about 4 miles distance. The structure is an apparent remnant of apartheid which, because its so structurally ingrained, seems like it will be a long time in fading away. A lot of cities have these.
It appears that everyone knows Miss Tina. Children and others wave, and even people in town who she does not know treat her like a long-lost friend. So although not terribly inviting toward a true friendship, the community is quite friendly.
Seeing Christina’s place, as parents, we wanted to do an episode of one of those home makeover TV shows, although that, predictably, was not going to sit well with her. We did do some compromises. We bought fabric to replace the missing backs on the kitchen chairs, a bowl, (even though she insisted the deep plate worked fine for soup and cereal) and kitchen knives since food would get caught in the leatherman, We learned she’s a bit self-conscious about being perceived as rich after some kids saw into her cupboard and said “wow” at the amount of rice, oil and seasonings that were present. (We were less impressed!) Computer and iPod are kept from public view.
The school is plain, but quite nice, and we loved the library. All the books are classified as 1 thru 5, based on reading difficulty, which makes them a little easier to file. There’s nothing to sit on, so we got some pillows from the China Store as our contribution, and brought some National Geographic posters. The bookshelves need constant work. The actual shelves are only a fraction of the depth of the bookcase, so books are always falling down the back. But bottom line, its quite a cheery, inviting place.
Our travels have been without adverse incident so far, not counting Tina’s sprained ankle and wrist, sore throat and cold, food poisoning (nasty, the hotel staff wanted to get a doctor) and sunburn. Patti and I are quite pleased with things going otherwise so smoothly.

Ultimate animals:
BIGGEST: Namibian elephant, the largest strain in Africa, almost as big as the oiliphants in Lord of the Rings. I have seen elephants, but these were startling, towering about the trees and eating the tops.
Wimpiest: Anopheles mosquito, a no-show in this dry weather. We stopped our malaria prophylaxis early, a mortal sin in the annals of Infectious Diseases.
Startling: The Red Hartebeast is a creature out of mythology. It quite large, with the muscular body of a horse, a long neck, and the head of an antelope. We only saw them a few times, but they were back in the trees, the way centaurs usually are in paintings. Awesome.
Beautiful: Lavender-breasted roller. Black and a bluish aquamarine complement the purple breast when in flight.
Dumbest: the African sand grouse which will watch the tires of your Toyota truck slowly run over him unless you are careful to steer around.
Saddest: The wildebeest male, who when dethroned as leader of his harem by a younger, stronger male, is exiled from wildebeestdom. But being a social, herd animal, it will attach itself to another species herd, like a bunch of springbok, and follow them around in its retirement.
OILO (Once in a lifetime opportunity): The leopard, with blood on the chops from a baby kudu, looking you intently in the eyes from 9 feet away as your driver mistakenly gets between the leopard and what’s left of her kill.
Transparent: The rounded ears and black eyes being the only discernible features in the high grass as the cheetah looks up to see who is there.
Least responsive to negative reinforcement: That would be Patti, who could never believe in the baking desert sun of late afternoon that she would need anything warmer than short sleeves after sunset, despite the four previous nights’ experiences.
Most delicious: So far, either oryx or kudu. Each is also pretty impressive when not being eaten.
Most under appreciated: The springbok is underrated because it is so common. But it is a truly beautiful animal with an amazing vertical bounce.
Best architects: Termites. Second place, weaverbirds.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Down South

After a nine hour kombi ride to Windhoek and two days there just eating, taking care of errands, seeing a movie (in a theater!), visiting friends, and getting far too tied up in the drama of the hostel where we stayed for one of the nights, it was time to head to South Africa. Four of us took a 22 hour bus ride from Windhoek to Capetown, and it was surprisingly nice. The seats reclined to almost laying down and were incredibly comfortable, so aside from the terrible movie they showed (seriously... someone should imdb "Birdie and Bogey") we were all amazed how smoothly the trip was.
We arrived in the afternoon on saturday tired and a bit dazed from the journey but pushed through for a nice dinner and then going out on Long Street. Long Street is what I imagine New Orleans to be like-- there are bars and restaurants lining both sides of a cramped street with balconies full of people talking, laughing, and dancing. We watched one of the car guards do a great dance performance in the street, enjoyed pina coladas at a cuban place, and met julia's friends (and their entire soccer team) for dancing. It was a great welcome to Capetown.
The next day we rode the cable car up table mountain, which is just outside the city. It gives you a spectacular view of everything-- on one side the ocean and the city sprawled out (we could even see the world cup stadium!) on another side a smaller mountain poking up and to the other side the vineyards crawling inland. It was breathtaking, and we spent far more time than anticipated wandering around on top of it.
We also visited Robben island, which was interesting, but a bit bizarre because most of the time is spent on a bus or being hurried through rooms that have been made into makeshift museums (really really hurried through). The last part of the tour, however, was guided by a former inmate of the prison and it was very interesting to get to hear from him.
Right now we are in Stellenbosch, which is a smaller town right in the middle of the wine country. We did tastings yesterday and the first one was wonderful- good wine and the guy who worked there had the attitude that "you like what you like, not what you're supposed to like" which was fabulous since none of us are exactly wine experts... Then we went to the goats do roam vineyard and had amazing cheeses with the wine.

I absolutely love capetown. Maybe it's just because it's nice to be back in a real city (we all went through some culture shock) but it is clean, full of wonderful restaurants, cafes, galleries, and funky little shops. People have been nothing but friendly and with the ocean on one side and table mountain on the other, it would be easy to miss how beautiful the buildings in the city are.
The plan is to head back to capetown later today and maybe see the cape of good hope later this week, but mostly we are all enjoying relaxing, eating, and lots of good wine!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Up North

I have spent the past few days visiting the North of Namibia. I jumped around spending each night with a different volunteer and the days were spent in some of the bigger towns or just hanging out at people’s sites to see what it was like. Instead of boring you with a “first I did this, then I went here” sort of post I thought I might just talk about what in the north was different for me so here we go.

Differences between what I’m used to and Northern Namibia
1. It’s a lot greener. Uis is semi-desert but the north is full of trees, grasses, and bushes. It’s not quite tropical or jungle-y but it’s definitely more of what I imagined when I thought about going to Africa. There are little ponds/puddles (called oshanas) all over too because there is more rainfall.
2. There are shabeens everywhere. Shabeens are little bars, usually one room cement spaces but they are all up and down the roads there. The best part is some of the fabulous names they have. Some of my favorites are: water melon is life, gangster’s paradise bar, enough bar, lucky special bar, and plan b bar.
3. A lot of the towns aren’t really towns or central communities, but rather just separations of the houses and businesses along the road. It’s more of a “from here to here along the highway is ongwadiva” which has made it difficult for some of the volunteers to get involved in their communities, but also means everything feels very connected and almost more like one big town.
4. There are taxis everywhere. That’s how we traveled all over. Coming from Uis which has no taxis it was a big change.
5. The people are different. There are different tribes up north, so the people tend to be darker skinned and speak a different language. This means I couldn’t greet people like I can in Uis. They seemed incredibly friendly to me and when I accidentally got dropped off in the wrong town I made a bunch of friends and had to take my picture with some of my new “sisters” before I was allowed to get in a cab to where I needed to be.
6. The big towns: I liked Oshikango a lot, it is a border town (on the border of Angola) and is about 1/3 Namibian, 1/3 Chinese and 1/3 Portuguese so it’s a pretty interesting mix. All the shops are china shops and Portuguese markets and it almost has an industrial feel (good Chinese food though!!). Ondangwa feels really big (long) and mostly had a lot of strip malls and that sort of thing. Oshikati I didn’t spend much time in, but it seemed like there were more markets but still lots of big stores. In case you haven't noticed, all of the towns start with 'o' (the small ones are ondangwa, ongwediva, onhanu...) it gets incredibly confusing for those of us who aren't used to it!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Future Travels

Hello! With my summer break about to start, I thought I would let you know what the travel plans are just because posts might be more sporadic (or more regular, who knows) and it might be trickier to get in contact with me.

April 23-26 or 28: up in Northern Namibia with some fellow vols
April 28-30: Windhoek
April 30-May 10: Capetown (my phone may not work, if you need to get a hold of me send an email, I will try to check it often)
May 10- 21: Traveling with my parents!! Yay.
May 21-25: Midservice in Windhoek
May 26: Back in Uis for the start of term 2

Hopefully I will keep you updated but just a bit of a warning!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kristen and Jena

I have also had a request for a profile of some of my fellow volunteers. Since Kristen and Jena are the ones I am closest to and the ones I see most often, I figured I could tell you a little about them. Also, the three of us are the babies of the group, we are the only ones who graduated from college in 2009 and we all live in the Erongo region.

Kristen is a sassypants. She always has a sarcastic comment ready and answers any question with plenty of attitude. That being said, she has a huge heart and is actually kind of a sappy sweetheart (shh.. don’t tell her I said that). She is from Virginia and studied social work, which is what she wants to do. She always lights up when she talks about social work and has great stories from some of the things she has already done. She is also obsessed with cats (her cat radar rivals my baby radar) and loves wine. She can be pretty shy, especially around big groups, and gets really intimidated by traveling here, but once she’s comfortable with you she chatters away (especially after a glass or two of that wine she loves…). I don’t really know what else to tell you except maybe to mention that I sms (text) her somewhere between 5 and 50 times every single day.

Jena is… well.. sweet. She is kind, caring, friendly and almost never cranky. She is basically just a nice person, which (along with the fact that her kids are devil children) means she has a lot of difficulties with discipline. She’s a little hippy-ish and spent a month after graduating from college working at a children’s home in Tanzania and then spent several months backpacking around southeast asia. She already has tons of friends all over Swakopmund. She is from New Orleans and her mom is an artist, which for some reason totally helps me understand why she is the way she is. Jena is a lot of fun because she’s always up for anything. Sorry if this makes her sound like one of those people who is so nice they are boring, because that is absolutely not true about Jena, but I don’t know how else to describe her!


I have had a few people ask me about the religious situation here in Namibia, so I thought I would do a quick post on what I have observed. According to the CIA world factbook, Namibia is 80 to 90% Christian (50% Lutheran at least) and the remaining 10 to 20% is indigenous beliefs. This means that Christianity is everywhere. People assume you are Christian (other volunteers struggle with this) and there is absolutely NO separation of church and state. Every meeting begins with a prayer, Mondays and Fridays there is a bible reading for the whole school and there is daily prayer/reflection for the staff (all of this is at a government school).
That being said, I (and several of the other vols, including the ones who came because they felt their Christian faith compelled them) find the religious beliefs here very frustrating. This stems mostly because the main belief and the passages that are always emphasized are about how God will give you what you ask for and god is always supporting you. For example, before exams started, the kids were told to pray that they do well and God will help them. Personally, I prefer to think that God will help give you the capacity to study, people to support you, and the desire to do well but that at least some effort is required on your part.
It is also a little frustrating because since everyone is Christian, no one questions their beliefs and most of my learners have thought very little about their faith. They have rote, memorized answers to any question about Jesus or God, but don’t even conceptualize what those answers mean. Part of what I have been trying to do with my grade 7 religion class (since they’re supposed to be studying Christianity) is have them actually critically think about and assess their faith. I think Christianity can be awesome, it has wonderful messages, and it can help to make these kids better people if they can use it as a tool, but right now that doesn’t seem to be happening. Instead, it is used as an excuse to be lazy and a reason to be prejudice against people who aren’t Christian.
The last thing that I will say is that the use of the bible during our Monday and Friday assemblies can be difficult too. Aside from just being told to ask God for anything they want, teachers have also used verses from the bible to justify or explain corporal punishment, which obviously I have a problem with. I let this motivate me to actually choose and read myself during the assemblies which fall on my “on duty” week, and I try to choose passages about caring for your neighbor, justice, love, etc.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Exams started this week so I thought I would give you a little breakdown of what that means for everyone involved:

For the learners: They take one exam every day from 8:30 to 10:00. This is extremely stressful for them, I had one girl actually start crying during the exam today and another who looked like she might. I actually like it because it is the best behaved I have ever seen them—they actually sit quietly and focus on a task for at least an hour. It’s baffling. It also means that they have an hour and a half of study before the exam, which is usually spent in quiet anxious reviewing, a half an hour after the exam for break, and then two hours of review before they go home. This last two hours is… less quiet.

For the teachers: This is also incredibly stressful, not because of the exams per se, but because we have to turn in all of our marks (grades) for the entire term. And we have to put them on these stupid, confusing forms, and there is a separate form for each learner for each class. Considering how many learners and classes we all have, it isn’t what I would call fun. Add to that proofreading, copying, and marking all the exams.

For me: I spend a lot of the time kind of confused because the idea that I have no idea what exams are like in Namibia is lost on the people who are supposed to help me. For example, it took me three days to figure out how much time learners got for each exam. There was a little extra confusion too because I was told that the exams for math and science that we are sent by the government would not actually be used for the marks on their grading sheets. This meant I had to write separate exams (two for math, one for science) and find time to administer them to grade 6. Writing the question papers took approximately 6 hours total, given I had to figure out what approximate length, question style, and material should be. I wrote them on time and lost a lot of my weekend, only to show up Monday morning and have the principal tell me we can just use the government exams. After reading the govt. exams over, however, and seeing how terribly confusing and beyond what my kids have learned they are, I showed her my exams and she was impressed enough to let me administer them too.
The most ridiculous part of this week has been marking for the whole term. I have been marking as I go, for the most part, but didn’t actually have a class list for grade 5 until about a week ago (so I couldn’t record their scores) and I discovered that grade 7 needed more marks, so I went back and graded some of the activities we had done. This would be fine except for all the empty spaces in my grade book. Some learners just don’t give me their work, some lost their books, and some never did it to begin with. I don’t really want to fail half of my students so I tried giving out slips of paper telling every student what they were missing. Didn’t work. Then (based on the success story of a fellow volunteer) I wrote all of the tasks we did this semester and under each one wrote the name of the learners who haven’t given it to me, and posted these lists outside the library. I had learners falling over eachother to turn things in. I have no idea why it worked, but I now have only 1 missing assignment for grade 6 and grade 7 got most of their stuff in too. Unfortunately, I think a lot of this was lost on my grade 5 (especially the boys) but they are the ones who didn’t do the work in the first place, so a zero might be an accurate reflection of the class for them.

Needless to say, this week is exhausting. I’m usually at the school, constantly busy from 6:45 until 5pm (minus the hour long lunch break). But it also means the term is almost over, and I am so excited for the holiday! I hope life is less stressful for all of you back home!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Holy Moses...

Alright! One of my assignments for my 5th graders was to write the story of Moses, which we spent three weeks learning about. Here are some of my favorite responses (don’t worry, this isn’t meant to scare you like the science test, I think these are amusing)

Once upon a time there was Moses, Pharoh and Israelites. God came to moses and he said “plz Moses lets this people go” and Moses said “I will try” and Moses go to Pharoh and said “let my people go” and Pharoh said “no” and Moses said “If you ton’t want blood water lets my people go” and Pharoh said “no” and than frogs came and Moses came to Pharoh and said “lets my people go” and Pharoh said “no” and then gnats came and Moses said “If you ton’t want this gnats let my people go” and Pharoh said “no” and than the flies came and Moses came to Pharoh and said “lets my people go” and Pharoh said “no” And boil came. And moses go to Pharoh and said “lets my people go” and Pharoh said “no” and than hail came. And Moses go to Pharoh and said “lets my people go” and Pharoh said “no” and than locusts came. And Moses said “lets my people go” and last thing he do is draw a cross on door and Pharoh said yes and they were live in deserts.
*Fabulous understading of the plagues, no? ☺

the Moses and vero and the and the Jises came and the and the Moses is sea nau vero (Moses say “now pharoh”) the moses is hello the piples and the vero and the vero is not hello the piples (hello=help) but the moses is hello the piples but the vero is not helb the piples but th emoses is help the piples… etc.

Moses want to take away the Israelites but pharoh does not want that Israelites will go and moses say let me take my people and pharoh say no and moses take them to the Deserts and Israelites was thirsty and God say to moses beat your stick on the mount sainai and water came down from mount sainai and moses go up to the mount sainai and Israelites think that moses die and Israelites was hungry and manna came down and they make a false idol.

Once upon time there was Moses and his Israelites. Moses cau (go) to the Pharoh and let my people sis (says) Moses and Pharoh sis no. I yil (will) mika blood in the rifah and the pharoh sis no and the moses and sed mebeh o doent Moses beb me.
*he had a good start… these things tend to make a lot more sense if you read them out loud, just fyi.

You’re welcome for actually typing these out ;) This will hopefully lead to a discussion of religion as I have witnessed it in Namibia, but for right now I have been grading, copying, writing, cleaning, teaching, and supervising library since 7am so I think I’m going to go watch a movie and let my poor brain recover…

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday in Uis

Yesterday I got up early (well early for a Sunday… around 7:30) and went with Peter, his friend MJ (who you will hear more about soon…), one of my learners named Diana and her two little sisters to the “white sand mountain.” A little background so that it makes sense: my town was founded here in the middle of nowhere because of a tin mine, which is no longer operating. Tin is found here on stones that are white speckled with a sparkling black (the tin) in a pattern that reminds me of mini shiny soccer balls. To get the tin then, there is a lot of white stone ground up and discarded. This white stone has formed a hill larger than any of the nearby natural hills and it lies about 3km away from where I live. So away we went, and we climbed (it was quite a hike) up the little mountain and were greeted at the top by breathtaking views.
To one side you could see the location and beyond that the lonely dirt road disappearing beyond the horizon between two lonely mountains. In the other direction was the town which is framed by Brandberg mountain, the highest peak in Namibia. Behind us was the abandoned mine with all sorts of weirdly shaped buildings. It was gorgeous.
Unfortunately, I was the only one who brought water, and I did not plan on supplying the whole party, so we straggled back to the house mostly out of thirst. (I don’t think I’ve ever thought that much about water before in my whole life!) Afterwards, I spent most of the afternoon at the school working on writing exams and getting paperwork together for the end of the term, and came home to watch Last of the Mohicans with MJ.
So my entire weekend (not exaggerating, they came and sat at the school while I worked) was spent with Peter, MJ, and Diana. Peter and Diana met Friday night and have been hopelessly and shamelessly smitten ever since. It got old very fast to be followed so constantly by middle school flirting. This left MJ and I some good bonding time, and fortunately he is an articulate and fun kid. Nonetheless, I am not too sorry that I FINALLY have a little alone time tonight!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A good Friday evening.

Yesterday was the last Friday of classes that we have before end of the term exams start (more on the exams to come soon, you can be sure) and it was one of those days that made me glad I have a month long break from teaching grade 7 art…
Fortunately, it was a nice evening. I came home and did some marking on my front porch and listened to music for a bit so that I could feel productive. Then a couple of my learners came over to talk and we picked the wild cucumber that is growing in my yard (not for eating, but apparently works for killing lice) and they laughed as I dissected it to see what was inside this prickly yellow fruit. Then a few of the boys that I am not furious at came over and we all talked and listened to music and watched the sky change colors as the sun went down. I cooked a nice dinner for myself while they entertained me, and it was a lot of fun.
Then I got a surprise visit when a friend from the post office (look who’s got connections!) hand delivered a package from home. I was so excited my hands were shaking as I opened hand-made valentines from my mock trial team. The kids kept laughing at me as I got increasingly more and more excited by the silly things that the team had put in the box, and I was giddy for the rest of the night ☺
After dinner, as the kids dispersed I got picked up by a new friend I met and we went into town for a couple of drinks. I had a lot of fun talking to this guy, heretoforwith to be referred to as Victor, because he works for the tourism board doing conservation work. He is very passionate about the environment, has traveled all over Africa doing work with Oxfam, Peace Corps, the US Embassy and various Ministries of the Namibian Government and he worked in Australia so his English is very good. He is the person who will be called if elephants invade any towns in the region, and he had great stories about being stuck on a boat in Botswana in a river full of hippos.
I came home early to watch Rocky III with Peter and then fell asleep quite happy about the day!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Oh the Irony

Today I was teaching my grade 7 religion class about hammurabi’s code (an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth). We talked about what it meant, what the Bible says on the subject and then they had to apply it to the death penalty. At the very end of class I was wrapping things up when there was a disturbance from the back of the room. I went over to find a boy on the floor and asked why the kid next to him hit him. The response was “he beat me first”. I FREAKED out. I literally yelled “aaaargh!!! This is exactly what I’m talking about!” I was so animated and so clearly flipping out that they all actually paid attention and listened to what I was saying. Mostly they thought it was funny, but man oh man I hope they got the point!

Easter Weekend!

Things I did for the first time this weekend:
1. Eat ostrich meat—tastes mostly like beef, but absolutely delicious!
2. Learn to drive a stick shift—I got to drive in circles on an empty soccer field, quite exciting
3. Have egg liqueur and ice cream for Easter breakfast (mmmmmm)
4. Climb dune 7, the highest of the sand dunes outside of Swakopmund. It was sad how difficult it was, but was a lot of fun and gorgeous to see, despite being covered in sand for the next two days!
5. Jump out of an airplane at 10,000 feet. (!!!) Many of you know one of my biggest fears is heights, so this was quite an accomplishment (I think). I was terrified but after a beautiful 10 minute flight along the coast, I jumped (strapped to a professional) out of the plane. The first 5 seconds were absolutely awful, I was convinced I was going to die and had that awful sinking feeling in my stomach that you get on roller coasters for longer than I thought possible, but after that it was incredible. The chute opened right on cue, we did some turns in the air, and we landed without a glitch. It was a pretty amazing experience.

The weekend overall was incredible. It began with three friends (two vols and a girlfriend) coming and spending Thursday night at my house, which was wonderful, since they are two of my favorite people and I rarely get such unrestricted access to them. It was a fun night, mostly just full of chatting. We then drove down to Swakopmund to meet up with the rest of the group (we were ten in all) and spent the weekend walking on the beach, eating too much, talking, and doing the above activities. It was a ton of fun, as always, and we worked very well as a group, even with so many people. It just made it hard to come back!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A lesson in naïveté

Most of you know I’m still one of those people who is convinced that I can somehow help to save the world. My definition of what that means is clearly a lot more realistic than it once was, but nonetheless, it is an attitude that I have fought to maintain. It is a belief that has also gotten me called naïve more than once, and I don’t argue with my critics. I think even trusting that the world can be changed for the better, and thinking that people are, deep down, good and have the capacity to care for one another, is something that requires a bit of naivete, if only to prevent the cynicism that it is so easy to fall into.
Nonetheless, all of you know that four weeks ago I took in three boys to live in my house. The first night, I half expected to wake up and find my computer and any money I had gone. But, I took a risk and let them stay. They then turned out to be one of the best things to happen to me in Namibia. I came to trust and love them very much, and defended their character to the other teachers and miscellaneous adults who were concerned about them.
I think the fact that I got behind them so much and let myself care about them so wholeheartedly is what made today the hardest. It turns out that over the weekend, a teacher and the woman who owns the house saw someone inside and went to confront the person. The boys had taken a key from my kitchen drawer and snuck in after I left Thursday morning. They lied and told the owner that I had asked them to watch the house. Then, when I came home yesterday, they lied to me. They told me someone had tried to break in but had been scared off. They said the owners had come to get them and asked them to stay at the house. I was so freaked out I didn’t question the story and was glad that they were there last night.
Today, however, the boys were caught in their lies. It was my job to tell them how disappointed I am, how let down I feel and that they have to (once again) get out. I know all of this sounds a bit melodramatic, after all these are 15 year old boys lying about something that any kid might. But this has been very difficult for me. I think it’s the fact that the trust I had in the only people other than my learners that I really strongly care for, has been completely broken. I think it’s the fact that I’ve been made a fool out of, in front of the teachers who are all thinking (and some saying) “I told you so” and my world teach community, who were notified of the “break in” for safety reasons. Or it could just be that today was a pretty awful day even before I had to deal with all of this anyway.
It is, however, a good opportunity for me to reflect on that glimmering naivete that I try to maintain. Being optimisitic and hopeful is what I am really striving to be, but I still think you have to be at least a little naïve to not turn into a cyinc, especially living in a place like this where it would be so easy to blow off all of the poverty, lack of education, and health issues and just decide that they cannot be solved. Wish me luck in trying to balance these character traits, despite the little reminders that it’s too easy to get burned.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Natural Sciences Test

This is a sample of the test I gave on Wednesday and some of the answers. The number in parentheses at the end is how much each question is worth.
(First there was a matching section, not too interesting)
2. List three ways to purify water and explain two of them. (5)
-- The purify is a fung that are thai the of as whant the maibe runing and you come out from the howes then the sham of the chauts are shoting.
--dissolve, fillister, dican (she will actually get two points for this for “filtering” and “decanting”)
--you are have soil, water. You are having white thing that comes from trees purify a water
--decanting is when you pour a dirty water to the another container so then the dirt can be let behind. Distilling is when you boil dirty water and catch the steam. (don’t you love McLean?)

3. What colors are in white light? (3)
some sample colors: green, red, pink, yeliew, peple, palpl, clear, ret, geren, yelau

4. Give two advantages of solar energy. (2)
--Eive you cook dety watar. That is solar energy.
--solor is gut
--we must by with the Big Money so tha we must not by again (this is correct). We must ues for the light.
--it safe money
--The solar energy is give becaus you can not bahe egaim and agaim becaue she is good (again, correct)
--It is not dy bay gaen and gaen (see a trend?) it is shiny not. It is very expensive.
--if you but some thing in the sun if you but some thing in the put it will be boil.
--static electricity force (a common technique, just copy words from earlier in the test….)

5. What is recycling? Give two reasons to recycle. (4)
--recycling when you recycling something
--is when you do something again and again. It is cheap, to save oil. (I love Queen too…)
--If you put sand (soil, rooks) in the contoner an you put water and you puer it in an other container
--paper shiny
--ba cos we wot energy energy is good to pealpas.
--mater like pland and animals

6. What is a force? List one contact force and one non-contact force. (4)
-- one non contact force
--the force that let you pick up paper with a ruler
--you can be pull you can be push (two points!)
--a force is a pull or a push. Contact force: touch. Non-contact force: gravity and magnent (amazing!)
--it is static electricity. The force that let you to pick up a paper is called a contact. If you hold a ruler and you live it that is call a non-contact.
-- that is what you but in the little boll into the water then the little boll haves been gads into the water and then you maebe but in the bauts into the water then the water is bust in the bauts then one bust our egaim (this refers to an experiment we did, and might actually get her a point)
--a force is some thing that is map by a panis and a non-contact force is ome thing that is not map by a panis (she may be confusing our sex-ed chapter in here… no clue)

7. What is displacement? Why can’t you just use a ruler to measure the object’s size? (3)
-- electricity static
--is when you used the the sunlight
--displacement des tiat
--wen something or some one takes anergy from something is displacement
--is when you measure something like a object because sometimes if you measure it is small big and having circles (2 points!)
--when you put the ruler on top of the had the is displacement
--a ruler take our electricity

8. Explain how lightning works (5)
*here I wish I could show you the pictures. I explained lightning using “happy clouds” that had lots of electrons and “sad clouds” that didn’t have any. This image alone seems to have been understood better than just about anything else this lesson. Sadly, about half of them, when told they could draw a picture, drew a circuit instead. Here are some of the writing that accompanied the pictures:
--then is mean that is displacement
--when the clouds electrons have been taken by the one wich is on the top and other clouds don’t have then the lightning light and it hits the ground and all of them get back (five points!!)
--if the clout or the tree don’t have energy one time that the clouts de repaying that were the lightning hepens (actually will get some points! I explained taking electrons like taking money so “repaying” is a good word to see here)
--before: the calsa that is up is having all of the energy after: and that the lightning is deveing te energy to the callsa
--the ligh can haul hight if the electricity guts thaon the ligh is good four my ligh is alih whaks wits a electiuity went a ligh whats hab works willf the electiuiy
--lighting happens when the cloud on the top take all the static electricity to it self so lighting happens so that all the clouds must have the same amount of electrons (incredible!)

The last question was a chart they had to fill in. 2 learners actually did it correctly, so I think I will have to throw it out and maybe just make this an in-class project…
I hope you enjoyed seeing what I’m dealing with every day!! ;)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


28/30 The number of people who say hello as I walk by on my way to the store
14/15 The number of people under the age of 18 who yell “Miss” or “Jefrau” (pronounced yefro) as I walk by, only occasionally accompanied by other words
5/15 The number of adults who do the same
3/42 The number of learners in my 5th grade class it takes to get the whole class out of control
7/42 The number of kids I can count on 100% to cause problems in my grade 5 class every single period
2 to 23 The number of kids in the library on any given afternoon
2 to 15 The number of kids actually reading in the library on any given afternoon
5/5 The number of times I have enjoyed the rain here during the rainy season
0/5 The number of times I have enjoyed the humidity after the rain
99/100 The number of times the answer to the question “how are you?” posed to a Namibian is “Fine”.
8 to 30 The number of times a day I am greeted with “so” or “so, Miss” as a complete sentence, not followed by any other thought and not used as a conversation opener.
1 The number of new students in my grade 7 class as of last Thursday.
1 The number of new students it takes to send the entire grade 7 class into an uproar.
1 to 9 The number of notes I get to intercept every day in my classes.
98 The percentage of those notes that are love notes

Monday, March 29, 2010


Another one, just because I feel like I’ve been giving too many profiles of the boys.
Queen is one of my grade 6 learners (well, this queen, there is one in grade 5 too… I will save her for another day). She is one of those girls that I definitely wanted to be when I was younger; she is smart, pretty, fun, caring, and popular. She gets teased like everyone else (middle school is brutal) but is usually very happy. I met her mother who is a teacher in another town and seems very supportive. Queen currently lives with a grandmother or aunt, like many of my kids.
She had a really rough week about a month ago where something was very clearly wrong. She didn’t bring her books to class, never did her work, and would just stare at her desk or the wall all during class. It was terrifying to see, given how good of a student she usually is. I tried to talk to her about it, which just made her burst into tears that I could tell something was wrong, and so I backed up to just being supportive. Eventually she got better and things went back to normal, much to my relief, but it was scary for a while.
Usually she and mclean are the ones I can count on to shout out answers during class, and she can also be counted on to laugh when her fellow classmates are acting out in some amusing fashion. She has a fantastic smile that always feels incredibly sincere. She is one of the learners who balances out kids like Delvin, and makes teaching fun and feel worthwhile.


Time for another profile! Delvin is one of my 5th grade boys, and is very much one of the ones who makes teaching them absolutely awful sometimes. He is what we call “difficult” or “bad” or “obnoxious as all get out”. But he is also one of those boys who acts out to get attention. I can count on him to be talking, singing, drawing, fighting, throwing things, or any number of other disruptive behaviors any time I look over. He’s one of those problem kids because if I give in and yell at him, he gets the attention he wants, and if I ignore it he just misbehaves more. Sending him out of the class or to the principal does very little. Fun.
I know he just wants attention because of days like today, when he came to the library. He behaved perfectly and in fact spent the entire hour I was there talking to me. He would bring over books and point at pictures or ask questions about me and my life in the U.S. His English isn’t great and he has a tough time differentiating between the English and Afrikaans that he has learned, so a lot of sentences come out with incomprehensible grammar mixed with words I can’t understand, but somehow we manage. He walked me home and wants to come “donderstag” (Thursday, I think) to show me a rap his brother did. I’m thinking that if he and I become friends it might help his behavior in the classroom, since so far the only thing that has made any impact is me pulling him aside for a chat about his behavior (don’t get your hopes up, he got better for maybe one class). At least I have him to keep me on my toes and make sure teaching doesn’t get too easy or routine…

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Class Updates

I was asked for some updates on my classes so here you go!
Grade 7 arts continues to be student teaching although yesterday I talked to them about mythological creatures like centaurs and griffins and then I had them invent their own creature by mixing two animals and drawing it. They actually had a lot of fun with it, and some of the pictures were pretty incredible. There were a few less creative ones like a “half donkey-half horse” but some really fun ones like a “giraffe lady” who could tie her neck in a knot and a snake woman who had snakes for arms. I’m looking forward to marking those this weekend!
In grade 6 and 7 BIS we are still learning about encyclopedias and I have them doing a scavenger hunt where they have to find the answers to questions by figuring out which volume the answer is in. It took longer than expected because the copy machine broke so they had to copy all the questions from the board, but we got to start answering them this week and now that they get the idea, I think next week will go smoothly.
Grade 5 Religion has been a lot of fun the past couple of weeks. We’re still learning about judiasm and we have been doing the story of Moses. I tell the story and have volunteers come up and act it out while I talk, and they think it’s hilarious when I use learners like puppets. Last week we ended with the 7 plagues and they had to pick one to draw, which was pretty amusing. Next week we will be getting to the 10 commandments and I think I might have them make “false idols”. I use a lot of drawing and art with them because the English comprehension is so low, but they have been doing a good job following the stories.
Grade 6 natural science we are learning about electricity and static electricity. Everyone had fun rubbing rulers on their heads and using the charged rulers to pick up pieces of paper, and we learned about lightning with “happy charged clouds” and “sad clouds with no electrons” who fight to even things out. Grade 6 math is going alright, we’re working on strategies for addition right now, which they are pretty good at. We continue to do the multiplication flash cards, and it is helping some learners, but it’s still kind of lost on others.
Grade 7 Religion this week was pretty intense. We were talking about Jesus, Mary and Joseph as refugees and then comparing it to modern day refugees and talking about those situations around the world. It was kind of scary how little they knew, and the discussion turned into their first exposure ever to WWII and the holocaust. It was scary to me that they hadn’t heard about it, but they could tell from my demeanor how important this was to me, and actually paid a lot of attention and asked good questions. We might talk more about it next term when we learn about Judiasm.
So that’s where we’re at! This coming week is another short week, we have good Friday off and I have friends coming Thursday night who will then go with me down to Swakopmund for the long weekend. I’m already excited, but enjoying having a much slower weekend to relax!

Site Visit

This week was my site visit from Jocie, my field director. She has to go watch every volunteer teach and speak with their principal, just to see how things are going and to help come up with ideas for improvement. I was the last volunteer for her to come visit, and was only nervous because she told me all about how amazing the other volunteers are in the classroom.
Jocie arrived Thursday afternoon and we had a good time chatting. She taught me how to make home made macaroni and cheese, which was incredible. She’s always a lot of fun to have around, and we had a good time cooking and eating.
Friday morning she came and saw part of my math class and part of my natural science class (she planned to see the whole thing but got an emergency call from another volunteer part way through and had to handle that situation). My grade 6 learners were really well behaved, so that helped a lot! We then came back to my house for break time and talked about my teaching and what my principal had to say about me. Apparently the principal is pleased with my work and happy I’m at the school (my parents would say I shouldn’t be surprised but she does seem to get annoyed with all my questions a lot). She actually made a comment about how my I am good at keeping my classes disciplined and keeping the other teachers in line. No idea what that refers to, but Jocie and I thought it was amusing.
We mostly agreed that from here on out I need to work on establishing more routines in the classroom, especially with grade 5, because I think that will help with discipline. I also want to continue to work on classroom management, although my grade 5 classes have gotten a lot better over the past few weeks. A lot of this I might focus on more for the second term, however, because apparently exams start soon! No idea when, which is typical, but apparently they are a lot sooner than I expected.

Friday, March 26, 2010


The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.
- Flannery O'Connor

On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we won't understand
Don't accept that what's happening
Is just a case of others' suffering
Or you'll find that you're joining in
The turning away
-Pink Floyd

When twilight drops her curtain down and pins it with a star,
remember that you have a friend though she may wander far.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Goodbye to the my little family…

Today I finally talked to my principal about the “lost boys” (as my parents have taken to calling them) and the result was exactly what I expected—I didn’t get in trouble and neither did they, but now that she knows (and I know that she knows) they have to go. The boys are currently seeing if they can beg their way back into the hostel, and seeing their bags packed in their room makes me sad every time I walk by. I guess it will be nice to have privacy (and food!) again, but it is going to be awfully quiet without them around. So, a little too late, here is the promised profile of my boys:
Chester is 16 and LOVES to talk. He hardly ever stops, unless another adult shows up for some reason (at which point he gets super shy and says nothing until they leave). He is a jokester and hangs out around the house the most. He is always dressed immaculately and is definitely a leader. He is an orphan since his mother died two years ago, but he has an older sister who helps pay school fees and such. He loves to talk and McLean loves to ask questions, so the two of them get along really well and have become like brother and sister. He teases her and she pesters him while they sit on my back porch, I love eavesdropping and the sound of them laughing always makes me smile.
Martin is a year younger than the other two. He is the most childlike, not because he is the smallest, but because he attached himself to me very early on in the kind of way you might expect from a younger boy. He is quiet, but not timid. He has no problem waltzing into my room to ask to borrow something or just say hi. He gives off a vibe of just being very considerate, and the girls love him.
Pietrus (I call him peter because it takes a lot less effort) is the most quiet of the group. He is a little more serious, and spends more time doing work than the others. His big distinguishing feature in my eyes is how attached he is to his family. He brought his sister to meet me the second day he came here and they spend a lot of time together. He tells me all about his mother (and apparently has told her all about me!). He is currently OBSESSED with the song “Just be your tear” by Tim McGraw, which he discovered on my computer. Seriously, I have heard the song probably 60 times in the past week. It’s a bizarre contrast to the hip-hop and rap that they usually choose…
I feel like this explanation is completely inadequate. How can I describe the way Martin hangs around near me just in case I want to chat? Or the sneaky smile that Chester has when he’s trying to get me riled up about something? Does it make sense to say he’s winking with his whole face? Sorry if I’m getting over-sentimental, but I’m going to miss the sound of them whispering at night when they’ve gone to bed and the way they always make me an extra plate of food when they cook. It will be so weird to watch a movie uninterrupted (or alone) and to not have their friends dropping by. I hope they come to visit a lot…